Otaku USA Magazine
Heavenly Delusion [Review]

The complete opposite of paradise

Heavenly Delusion is an intriguing series that brings two halves together in one strange but satisfying whole. Based on Masakazu Ishiguro’s manga series, it weaves together two narratives with two heroes at odds, with dual motivations. Through all this, it manages to deftly combine two perspectives for one truly gripping post-apocalyptic tale. While its storytelling is sometimes murky, it’s well worth investing in, especially given its commitment to worldbuilding.

It’s told in two parts: one that follows the 15-year-old boy Maru, who finds himself making his way across Japan after a terrifying apocalyptic event. At his side is a woman named Kiriko, who has plenty of untold secrets that don’t immediately come to light. Together, they’re working to seek out their version of paradise, which will keep them from having to dodge the horrific monstrosities that now call the outskirts of Tokyo (also known as the rest of the world) home.

The other half focuses on a facility attended by children who have been kept from interacting with the outside world—the complete opposite of paradise, otherwise known as “Hell.” A teenager named Tokio, who’s been kept from sussing out anything about the world outside his school, finds himself looking for answers after a close friend confides something deathly important to him. He knows there’s something about the world that’s been kept from him, but what?

It might seem that those affected by the apocalyptic events in Heavenly Delusion have gotten over the world’s massive change quickly, but even after the 15 years that have gone by, it’s difficult for young Maru to accept. Traveling with Kimiko, there are plenty of things he doesn’t understand—and things for viewers to question as well: Why do Maru and Tokio look so much alike?

Though there are two story threads that seemingly never converge at the beginning of the series, they do end up intertwining for additional devastating truths later on, which makes Heavenly Delusion an even more difficult watch. Between a series of strange new twists and turns and timelines that won’t immediately make sense, one could liken the series to that of books like House of Leaves, where the order isn’t so clear. That could make the series a frustrating watch, but it has the opposite effect; the difficulty in understanding what’s happening makes it even more enticing.

Luckily, the series looks absolutely fantastic, so you’ve got plenty of reasons to hang on and see what comes next. Production I.G. went above and beyond what they could have turned in here, with absolutely gorgeous characters, sprawling landscapes, and breathtaking views from one episode to the next. Everything, from scenes at twilight to simple conversations between characters, is impeccably animated in a way that rivals some of the heavy-hitters in the market right now, like Oshi no Ko and Jujutsu Kaisen.

Heavenly Delusion won’t be for everyone, as it’s a more cerebral exercise that explores a variety of topics that might not sit well with some viewers. It’s violent, disturbing, and downright terrifying at times, especially when it comes to the acts undertaken on children throughout the story. Maru and Kiriko’s relationship can offer some levity here and there, but the series is quite heavy in places, going so far to include an assault between two characters that may leave some feeling uncomfortable.

But for everyone else who decides to dive in and take the plunge, they’ll find a beautifully animated, well-constructed tale that runs the gamut from uplifting to confusing and downright nightmarish at certain points. Its name is a bit of a bait and switch, as much about the show isn’t “heavenly” in terms of what the characters must go through, but watching it is an excellent experience. You’d do well to add it to your viewing list, even if you’re simply morbidly curious about what goes down.

Studio/company: Disney+ / Hulu
Rating: TV-MA